At Least Now We Know Where it is Coming From

I do not even know where to start with this post.  Where did this all begin?  Was it when I fixed the Coaxial Cable?   Was it the when we decided to find a new home for our dog?  Was it when we brought the cats home?

WARNING:  This post will not be for the faint of stomachs.  Graphic descriptions and photos will follow.  Reading beyond this point will be at your own risk.

You have been warned.

I’ll start where this post started for me.  For the past month or so, we had not been able to access the “on demand” portion of our cable TV.  

floor_trussesOur laundry room is still unfinished and has access to the utilities (plumbing, HVAC, electrical, etc) that runs between the floor of the upstairs and the ceiling of the basement.  There is an (about) two foot gap created by the engineered floor trusses.

(An example of this can be seen in this pirated photo from the web…)

When the house is finished, flooring is placed on top of those trusses, and drywall attached from the bottom to create a ceiling in the basement – leaving that gap for all the “mechanicals” of the house.

I started troubleshooting this problem by accessing the coaxial cable junction point in the ceiling of our laundry room.  It was while I was working on the coaxial cable in that gap that I first noticed… IT.

Jumping back in time….

It was when we first got the cats that we first noticed the gap in the ceiling.  The cats would (from time to time) climb up the wall studs, hop on the spare refrigerator, then hop up to the gap  (or in reverse, to hop down).  Since Garfield (our cat that was killed by a car) was such a “climber” (he climbed up on top of virtually EVERYTHING) that we did not give it a second thought.  In fact, it was when he was jumping down from that gap that he broke his leg.

Fast forward a bit…

One of the several reasons we justified finding a new home for our dog Molly was because of her pooping issues.  We tried for two years to get her housebroken.  Crate training, bell on the door, being leased – all of it.  But no matter what we tried, she did the majority of her pooping in the house.  Not only did she do the majority of her pooping in the house – her pooping was almost exclusively done in #3 of 5’s bedroom.  We never could figure out why, but in the end, for sanitary and safety reasons, we could not deal with it anymore.

Meanwhile, a little closer to today… 

For the past couple of years, when the house would warm up (temp and humidity), or in the stagnant air of the homes during a Minnesota winter, #3 of 5’s room would smell of (animal) poop.  We assumed this came from one of two sources. 

It could have been from when Molly used his bedroom for her potty, or because this bedroom is right across the hall from the laundry room too (where the cat’s litter boxes are located) it was more likely that it was air flow.  The smell from the litter boxes would flow into his bedroom. 

When the smell gets bad, we will open a window to air it out.  That works for a few days.  We have added a ceiling fan to help keep the air in his room circulating.  That has helped some too!  Over the past two years, we have shampooed his carpet several times.  We have tried several specialty cleaners, and have sprinkled baking soda in his room and let it sit (closed) for a couple of days, then go in and vacuum it all up.  Some of these things have worked temporarily.  But in the end the smell just keeps coming back.

Back to the cable repair job…

So, here I was on the edge of the laundry room, with my head in the small gap between the floor and ceiling working on the coaxial cable that I noticed that all too familiar smell that we get in #3 of 5’s room…  It did not surprize me much because a.) his bedroom backs up to the laundry room – so I was overlooking the ceiling of his bedroom, and b.) I was in the laundry room which contains the cat boxes…


It was then that something way in the back of the gap caught my eye… A shadow of a darker area, darker than the already dark abyss. 

I shouted out to the Mother of Five to bring me a light. 

What I saw was more shocking that I could have imagined….

Wait… The camera has a Zoom….



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Yup…  Cat poop. 

LOTS of cat poop.





So, I devised a plan using two vacuum cleaner hoses and four vacuum cleaner hose extensions, a stick to control the end of the vacuum hoses and extensions, and lots of duct tape (to hold it all together).  About 15 feet in total.

I spent the better part of one day cleaning just ONE of the three channels I could see.  Every few “kernels” I vacuumed up would clog the hose.  So I’d vacuum for a few minutes, then spend the next 20 minutes taking the hoses and extensions apart, getting the clogged poop out, putting the hoses back together again and starting the whole process over again.Trying to maneuver over to the second channel was difficult (at best) and I can not even imagine how I was going to get over to the third (and possibly more) channels… 

There had to be a better way (that did not involve me ripping the ceilings down completely)…

Looking at the layout of the house, I could see that I could access that area of the ceiling a little easier – but it would mean cutting an access panel in #2 of 5’s bedroom closet (his closet acts as a border between their two bedrooms).

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And (of course) once I removed the panel, the first thing I noticed was that there was cat poop this far too…

I stuck my head in the new hole, and peeked back over #3 of 5’s room.  I thought I was horrified before, but that was nothing compared to what I saw from this angle… (This is overlooking the same area that the first photos were, but this time perpendicular rather than parallel.)

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It’s a little hard to make out, but there are a total of six channels in this photo.  The furthest one away is the first one I cleaned up from the laundry room.  The second through sixth (working towards you).  Channels #3, #4, and #5 are by far the worst.  Thankfully

Thankfully, from what I am able to see from this access whole, the “mess” tapers off from there… The closest channel in this photo (#6) has much less than the others.  My access is cut in channel #7, and then Channel numbers seem to trail off significantly.


Do I suspect there is some poop in the rest of the ceiling (areas I can not get to from my access panel)?  I do.  But from what I am able to ascertain from my vantage point, it is SIGNIFICANTLY less..  The “mess” seems to be concentrated directly above #3 of 5’s bedroom (channel numbers 1-6).

I am now wondering how much of this had to do with Molly’s (our former dog) insistence on using #3 of 5’s bedroom as her bathroom..  I suspect that she could smell this long before we could, and since she smelled poop there, assumed that is where she was supposed to go…

Clean up has been much easier from the access panel I cut in #2 of 5’s closet, but that only intensifies the need to unclog the vacuum hose – which slows things down.  I have been using my shop vac – but I only have the 1 1/4 in attachments.  I picked up a 2 1/2 inch hose, and tried it out for a few minutes last night.  This seems to keep the hose from getting clogged at all, but the hose is not long enough – so I am going to have to pick up another length of it to reach back as far as I need to, in order to clean up this mess.

As of now, I have about 1/3 of the “mess” cleaned.  I suspect the cleaning will go much faster once I utilize the larger shop vac hose, but before I can do that, I need to find a way to block off the areas the cats are getting access to the ceiling.  Once the mess can not be “added to” I can finish up cleaning this disaster. 

The good news in all this?  At least now we know where the smell is coming from – and how to stop it.

I have my hands full for the rest of today (and I suspect several days in the future too) – that’s for sure!

And, this is all being done in hope that I do not have to replace the whole ceiling in his room – although I am beginning to suspect that that may have been the easier way to go from the beginning…  We will start with the least intrusive method (cleaning) and if that does not clear up the smell in his room, it’s on to “Operation New Ceiling”….

Well, it’s been fun posting about this, now it’s time to get back to the nightmare of CLEANING it. 

Anyone want a couple (or three) slightly used cats??

That Was Almost Too Easy!

Not to be undone by co-worker, and fellow blogger Bill at The King of Clubs (and his ongoing Home Improvement series) it was time that I post something similar.

Last week I posted about an unexpected message that I found when I woke up one morning.  Not long after posting uploading the post, my telephone rang.  It was Best Bud Ed.  He had seen the post, and wanted to remind me about a little tidbit of info that I had forgotten.

09-20-10_1034_640x480He asked me if the disposal was an In-Sinkerator brand, and if it was, they had a universal coupling so I could simply drop the current disposal, and reattach the new disposal to the universal coupling attached at the sink.  It was indeed an In-Sinkerator brand. 

Best Bud Ed had also reminded me to get the model number, and measure the distance between the drain outlet and the top of the disposal.  These steps, I forgot to complete. 

I stopped at Lowes, and headed to the disposals.  They had the In-Sinkerator brand, but since I did not remember the model number or have the exact measurements, I had to “punt”.  They ranged in price from over $350.00 down to $75.00.  The top of the line (Evolution series) had sound dampening mounts, sound dampening insulation, mega horse power, two stage grinding, and all the extra bells and whistles.  Then, there was the basic line.  They were called “Badger” disposals.



I went with the Badger line.  My choices were the Badger1, Badger5, or Badger 5XP.  I did not want the bottom of the line, but did not feel I needed the top of the line either.  I settled with the Badger5.  When I finally got the disposal home and looked at the old one, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the old disposal was also a Badger5! 

I got my tools set up, sprayed the universal coupling on the old disposal with WD-40 to help loosen it up, turned on the Ron & Fez show to keep me entertained, and started in on the task at hand.





I un-coupled the old disposal, swapped out the electrical connection, and prepared to replace the disposal. 

(New disposal on the left, old disposal on the right)






Then, came the hardest part of the whole job.  Holding up the new disposal with one hand while trying to connect the coupling with the other. 

It took me about ten minutes to line it up, and get it fully connected.







In the end, the job took me about 30 minutes (I barley got through the entry song and the ichibans of the day on Ron & Fez). 

I only needed a couple of tools (surprisingly few), and (in all honesty) writing this post took me longer than actually replacing the disposal! 

Now, it’s on to the next project(s)…  Laundry (don’t watch for any posts), cleaning my room (don’t watch for any posts), and the patio project (stay tuned for a post in the future)..   

And, They’re Off!!

Thanks to GROUPON, earlier this summer I scored a great price on some tickets to Elko Speedway

My father in law is a big fan of racing at Elko – and we try to make an evening out of going to the races a couple of times a year.  These coupons were such a good deal that I bought two sets, and sent the link to my father in law who also bought two sets.  (You’re only allowed one set for yourself, but you can purchase more to “gift” to others)

I was thinking we could make a BIG evening out of it.  My father in law, my father, myself, #1 of 5 and his fiancée (and future grandchild #1 would be there too – by default of course), #2 of 5, #3 of 5, one of my brother in laws.  We would use up all eight, and have a great night!!

The deal was almost too good to be true (literally) because after I purchased the tickets and checked my schedule, I noticed that there was only one weekend that I was able to attend.  So we “penciled it in” for that weekend and went on living life.

As the weekend approached, things began popping up…

order_of_the_arrow #2 of 5 and #3 of 5 were both nominated by their troop to join the Boy Scout’s Order of the Arrow.  During their summer camp - Tomahawk…. (Whoops – I never posted anything about Tomahawk). They were “called out” during the OA campfire ring ceremony.  The official conclave (indoctrination) into the Order just happened to be the only weekend that I was able to attend the races.  So, #2 of 5 and #3 of 5 dropped out of the trip to Elko.

That’s 8 – 2 = 6 for those of you keeping track.

Then, my brother in law mentioned that he has some special party or dance he was going to attend that day.  He said he would try to make the races, but could not promise that he would make it.

That’s 6 – 1 = 5 for those of you keeping track.

And finally, on the morning of race day, #1 of 5, his fiancée (and future grandchild #1 – by default of course), let us know that they would not be able to attend due to a work schedule conflict.

That’s 5 – 2 = 3 for those of you keeping track.

Since the Mother of Five had to work, and we had some spare tickets, I decided it may be fun to to take the girls (#4 of 5 and #5 of 5) to their first trip to the races.. 

That’s 3 + 2 = 5 for those of you keeping track.

And finally, the afternoon of the race (just before I had to leave for work) #5 of 5 informed us (almost in tears) that she did not want to go to the races (I think she got wind of how big and VERY LOUD the cars that race are), so we made some final adjustments.  #5 of 5 would be staying with grandma while what’s left of the group went to the races.

That’s 5 – 1 = 4 for those of you keeping track.

The final group ended up being my father in law, my father, myself and #4 of 5.  For being a 9 year old girl, she was pretty excited to go to the racetrack.  She’s a sporty, well rounded, and interested in most things sort of gal. 

After completing my assignment (a day touring my department’s “Command Post” to the public at “Heritage Days ) – those of us that were left, headed out to meet, and drive together to the races.  We arrived just minutes before the races started..

Beer, Soda, Hot Dogs (some (mine) SMOTHERED in onions), and peanuts…  We were supposed to get two tubs of popcorn with our tickets, but they were so backlogged at the popcorn stand that it would have been a 15-20 minute wait.  I don’t even like popcorn all that much to begin with, but to wait 15 minutes for some – I’ll pass…  No biggie…

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Left photo - Father of the Father of Five (right) and FOF (left)
Right Photo – FOF (left) and #4 of 5 (right).
Sorry Father in law.  Since you were on the other side of #4 of 5 – I never got a pic of us together…)




#4 of 5 - bundled up in her coat was still getting cold.  To help keep her warm, I gave her my giant coat.  It looked like a tent on her! 

Oh, wait… 
There is my father in law in the background – concentrating on the race!








Do you want to get a taste of our fun out at the track? 

Here is a forty second clip (two and a half trips around the track) of one Late Model heats or you to enjoy!






I was surprised… By the end of the night #4 of 5 did not hate the races, in fact quite the opposite – she enjoyed herself, and said she wants to go again!  She is such a good sport, and a WONDERFUL daughter!! 

I love her so much!!

Unexpected Change of Plans

Today is my Friday, and it just so happens to be on a Friday, yet my “weekend” is beyond overbooked.  I have back-to-back-to back activities planned from 2pm on Friday through whatever time I wake up on Monday. 

I don’t even know when I am going to schedule time to use the bathroom!!  Thank goodness I have learned how to “hold it” for a LONG time huh???  (Link)

Well, my new work schedule does not allow for me to get home and into bed until somewhere in the 3am range.  The Mother of Five has been AMAZING in her ability to keep the noise level of getting the kids and herself off to work to a minimum, but I do have issues with “remaining” asleep after about 4 hours.

Maybe it came from the YEARS of my life where I only got 3-5 hours of sleep…   But I am digressing…

Today, was a bit of a “bonus” for me.  I did hear the kids and the Mother of Five getting ready for school / work, but I was able to fall back asleep, and did not wake until 9am…

Yup!  I said NINE AM – that’s a WHOPPING six hours of sleep folks!!

Well, I wondered out of the bedroom (to an empty house), and downstairs to my “portal to the world” known as the computer.  Checked email (responding to an email from one of #3 of 5’s teachers), checked FB, checked the blog stats, you know… the “usual” stuff – then headed up to the kitchen. 

The first thing I noticed was the kitchen was unusually cluttery,  Things I usually do not see lying around the kitchen were… lying around the kitchen.





That’s when I noticed it. 

A big pink note left for me.






This is not what I had planned for today.  No, I had all sorts of plans for cooking my Beef Brisket (that has been waiting for me for a while now), and listening to Ron & Fez on the radio while I keep plugging away at the front patio project as the brisket slow cooks. 

But no… Not any more..  Looks like fate had other plans for me.

But hey (I tried to justify with myself)…  The Mother of Five may be wrong!  She “over reacts” to household disasters (or, at least I tried to make myself believe).  This is probably nothing.  I was certain that the kids spilled some water that ran down the cabinet or something.   So, in my best Ebenezer Scrooge impression I could muster up – I gave the whole thing a “Bah-Humbug”, and set off on my mission to prove the world wrong.

I put the stopper in the sink, and filled it to the top with cool clear water.  I opened the cabinet below the sink, and pulled the stopper out!













So, regardless of whatever plans I HAD for today, I have to leave early for work to pick up a new Garbage Disposal that I will have to wait until Monday for me to install.  

Another Prayer Request

A while back I sent out a request for any and all prayers that folks could muster up for another “Father of Five” who suffered a massive cardiac arrest.  I have been diligent in following his progress, and (overall) there has been “no bad news”.  His family continues to remain optimistic, and he has continued to remain in my thoughts and prayers…  Often. 

I also have a close family member with a health related crisis that I have been praying about – Regularly, but now, it appears that I am going to have to take my prayers into overtime.

Fellow blogger, and friend Eva from My Family and Other Animals just had The Worst Weekend Getaway Ever.

Then, if “The Worst Weekend Getaway Ever” was not enough, it was right Back to Square Two for them…

Even though I have never met Eva’s husband, we have the shared perspective of  “fatherhood” (fatherhood in bulk) in common – and if for no other reason, he will also be in my thoughts and prayers.

As I have in the past, I am again turning to the readers of FOF….  I am asking that that anyone reading post (regardless of when you stumble across this post) this take a moment to send a thought, a prayer, some good karma or positive Ju-Ju, heck, send whatever it is you have to offer their direction.

And please keep Lewis (the “other” Father of Five) and his family in your continued thoughts and prayers…  I know they appreciate it.

I hope you can find it in your heart to take just a moment for these fathers…   I have been.

FOF Observation #19

The "FOF Observations" are a series of "Perpetual Posts" where I will share with you, my readers, short little observations that I have made (or will be making) on being the father of a large family. You will be able to access each of the posts in a cohesive list by clicking on the "FOF Observations" link in the "Perpetual Posts" group on the sidebar.

Trendy stretchy fabric book covers?  We don’t need no stinkin’ trendy stretchy fabric book covers!

Despite the pleas from my menagerie of children, ascetics mean NOTHING to me when it comes time to cover school textbooks.

When THIS father of five covers a textbook, it’s covered for the YEAR

Thick reinforced grocery bags, seams and edges reinforced with heavy duty industrial grade duct tape, repaired bindings, and student’s name (in black sharpie marker) two places on the outside of the book. 

Book covers on steroids!  That’s how I roll.

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Hey, at least I put the blank side out…  This way they can choose how to decorate the book in any “ascetic” way they want to – and I do not have to cover the book again, and again, and again, and again…..    Win / Win!

Unexpected Consequences

Preface:  I'd like to share an excerpt from my "about me" page with you...

I consider myself a man of faith.  I was born, raised, and practice the Catholic faith, and I am not afraid to say that believe in God.  While I have no desire to leave my faith, I am both tolerant of, and interested in learning more about the other faiths and Religions around the world.

There is a little place I stop at for lunch from time to time. It’s called the Gyros Grill.  It's a tiny little shop that (as it's name implies) serves "lunch counter" style Greek and Mediterranean food (like gyros, kebabs, falafels, etc).  

Being a fan of the gyro, having obtained a 1/2 price coupon for Gyros Grill, and having never patronized the establishment – set the stage!  I headed out to acquire my Gyro Grill 1/2 price Gyro sandwich.     

334918photo1From the outside, the Gyros Grill looks like any other small shop in a small suburban strip mall.  The first indication that I was going to see more than just a restaurant was the words "Import Foods" under the "Gyro Grill" on the shop's sign.  No big deal really.  Even though I do not frequent them, I have seen and have been in a few "foreign" markets in my lifetime.

When I first stepped through the door, and entered the Gyro Grill, I felt as if I had stepped through some sort of time/space continuum portal - and had been whisked away to a shop somewhere in Jerusalem.   I was a little shocked (and, to be honest, even a little nervous). 

My first impression was that this was less of a restaurant, and more of a Middle Eastern grocery store / news stand.  There were boxes and cans of food I did not recognize, printed with Arabic text that I did not understand.  There were shelves of books and newspapers (mostly written in Arabic).  There was an opening between the storage room and the rest of the store that used a curtain of beads as a door.  There were tables, with Middle Eastern Men sitting at them, visiting or reading Arabic periodicals.  There was a television in the corner tuned to Al Jazeera (and I am not sure if it was the English or Arabic audio), and middle eastern muzak playing in the background (which I am quite fond of…).  

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Google Street ViewThe kitchen / lunch counter was not much more than a small portion of the the back corner of the store.  There was a stove/oven/grill, a sink, a refrigerator, a spinning spit, and a glass counter (like the ones you see in antique shops) with the register on it.  Inside the glass counter were several other items, (hookahs, I believe) but one thing that stood out in my mind was a stack of Korans.

I truly felt out of my element.  Once I took in my surroundings, I was half expecting to hear a "record scratch" sound while everyone inside stopped what they were doing, looked up at me in stunned silence, while the TV turned itself off, and the lights flickered...  Then, as I walked back to the lunch counter, the gazes of the other patrons would track me through the corners of their eyes.  Culminating in my inability to order food because I did not speak the native Persian tongue of the guy at the lunch counter spoke. 

Instead, I was pleasantly surprised!

No one looked up, or gave me a second thought.  The guy at the lunch counter (while speaking with a thick Persian accent) communicated in English.  He was helpful and friendly.  I ordered (and enjoyed) a DELICIOUS Gyro with a Greek Salad, and promised myself (half out of my guilty feeling for having been "afraid" when I first walked in) that I would return.

I have returned a couple of times since.  The food is delicious and the atmosphere is...  "authentic"  (Well, at least "authentic" in relation to a non-worldly suburban 40+ year old father of five, having grown up in a moderately affluent second-tier suburb in the middle of the Midwest, USA...)   

Why did I dredge up this old (but true) story about Gyro Grill?

I dredged up this old (but true) story about Gyro Grill because I am (personally) disgusted by recent events in the news.  The events I am referring to reminded me about my first stop at the Gyros Grill - and another (since forgotten) idea that crossed my mind that day.

Seeing the Koran there on the shelf of the Gyros Grill that day peaked my curiosity.  I have friends of all different faiths.  I try to learn as much as I can about their beliefs when the opportunities arise.  I strive to be respectful of, and learn from our differences while being amazed at the similarities.  I have taken both High School and college level World Religions courses (voluntarily), so I have a vague overview of what the Koran says, but I have never actually held a copy of, or read anything directly from the Koran.   I have told myself (on several instances) that in all honesty and fairness, one day I would like to obtain a copy of the Koran for myself.

Why, you ask?   (Besides the obvious “Why not…”)

I believe knowledge is power.
I am comfortable with my own faith and I do not fear others.
To satisfy my curiosity.
To see for myself what it is the Koran says and does not say.
To better understand the views of another faith.
To try to understand my own faith a little more.
To set an example to my children, on what tolerance is all about.
To put into practice that what I hold so dear - the freedoms that the foundation of this great nation was founded upon.

This post is dedicated to "pastor" (and I use that term loosely) Terry Johnson.  A man so desperate to get the attention of the world (and his "fifteen minutes in the spotlight") that he is willing to use the media as his stage to the world while he commits vile, offensive, and hateful acts in the name of God.  His actions fly in the face of what I believe to be (and try to exemplify) being a Christian is all about.  His deplorable actions will only only serve to drive a wedge between the already strained relationships between the faiths of the world, and I have to wonder what good can come of that?

Instead of becoming the hypocrite that the "pastor" (and I use that term loosely) Terry Johnson personifies, and spew hatred his way, I will instead use his hatefulness towards a good cause.  His actions have only served to remind me, and solidify my intent to purchase a copy of the Koran in order to learn more about the Islamic / Muslim faith. 

In what can only be an unexpected consequence, his hatefulness is helping to spread the word of the Koran! 

So, "pastor" (and I use that term loosely) Terry Johnson – put that notion on your bonfire and burn it…


I am thankful for my job.

I am thankful that I have a career doing something that I like and for a city that I can say I am proud to work for.

Yet there are times (despite my thankfulness, fondness, and pride) that being a police dispatcher has it’s downfall
(Link to a previous example)

Last night, someone I consider a FRIEND called out for help.  This FRIEND called out for help, and I answered. My friend’s mother was in serious need of our assistance. 

This friend and his mother (at one point) went out of their way to help us in a time of need.  Not only did they help us, they went above and beyond.  Eleven years later, I still am thankful and have fond memories of this lovely lady. 

I immediately recognized the significance of this request, and I (along with my partners) sprung into automatic pilot, doing what we do.  One by one, as the emergency personnel arrived, the radio grew quieter and quieter.  Soon, all that was heard (from my seat in the 911 center) was radio silence.

As a dispatcher, I can tell you that the subsequent "radio silence" while you wait to hear something (or ANYTHING for that matter) from an officer can only be described as a DEAFENING.  I wait (on the edge of my seat) for the next update - to hear from someone on the scene.

It’s during those moments of silence that many prayers are said.

Last night was no different.  I sat (saying prayers), listening to the deafening silence of the radio while the officers I dispatched, the ambulance I sent, and my friend struggled to save a life.

It was nearly thirty minutes of praying, hoping, and wondering what was happening on the other side of the radio (while trying not to go crazy listening to that deafening radio silence) before I received an answer... 

Despite everyone's best attempts, our Lord opened his arms in a loving gesture and invited the caring, gracious, and helpful soul of his daughter to join him in his eternal paradise.

My thoughts and prayers are with my friend, his wonderful mother, and his extended family.  


Today begins a series of… changes. 

Yesterday, I was still working the “Daywatch” shift (from 07-1500 hours), but today (and for at least the next four months) I am working the “MidWatch” shift (from 4pm-2am for the first month, then from 3pm-1am for the remaining three months).  This will be the first time I have switched from my 8 hour day 7 on, 3 off, 7 on, 4 off shift and rotation to one of the new 10 hour day 6 on, 4 off, 4 on, 5 off, 5 on, 4 off.

I will admit that I am not a fan of working ten hour shifts, but since this will be my first foray into the world of 10’s – I’ll do my best to keep an open mind…  Stay tuned.  I’m trying my “darndest” to keep from forming an opinion until the end of the trimester. 

I’ll share my “review” in January. 

In other news that could be categorized as “Change” – I have FINALLY gotten around to cleaning up my Blogroll. 

For the past 2 1/2 years, that blogroll of mine was full of dead links, and links that (in all honesty) I never had time to actually visit.  I had close to a hundred links to Mom and Dad blogs there that (at one point or another) caught my eye.

But, in all honesty (and fairness) I have to admit that it was a RARE occasion indeed that I would actually click through and catch up on these blogs.

So, what I did is approach this in a two-step attack.  First off, I went into my feed reader, created a new “category” called “Blogroll”, and moved all the blogs that I DO read on a regular basis.  I then moved all those other blog feeds to a “blog” folder – So I can still read them when the mood strikes, but I also do not have to worry (or feel guilty) about accidently wiping the slate clean with a “mark all read” on a blog I do keep up with.

I then went and deleted the old “blogroll” page, and started a new one from scratch.  I took all the blogs from the “blogroll” category in my feed reader, and put them here on my FOF Blogroll page.


Rest assured, that if you are on this page, I am keeping up with your blog(s) on a regular basis (even if I do not comment as often as I should).  Also, many of these blogs have a “secondary” or related blog(s) that I visit, but, in the interest of keeping things neat, I only listed the “primary” (or what I consider the “primary”) blog.

Believe it or not, this was a much bigger job than I anticipated.  By the time I was done, I thought I had gone stir-crazy – so…  If you are a frequent visitor to my blog, I probably am a a frequenter of yours, and if you do not see your blog on that page – hit me up with an email…  It’s possible probable I may have overlooked one or two.

And on the final news related to “Change” – today is the last day of Summer vacation for the kiddos…  Tomorrow is the first day of 9th grade (high school) for #2 of 5, 8th grade (junior high) for #3 of 5, 4th grade (elementary school) for #4 of 5, and 1st grade (elementary school) for #5 of 5

#1 of 5 would normally be attending his (Post Secondary) Culinary Arts classes, but has taken some time off in order to complete the Management Training Program (a six week program) through his employer (that counts as “school” in my book), and is expecting a baby sometime in January.  Working full time, going to Management Training Classes full time, and a baby on the way this semester…  I think he has enough on his hands to justify the “hiatus” from Culinary Arts.

So, (in case your keeping score) that’s at least one kid in all levels of the educational ladder… 
Four different buildings for five different kids.

1 kid in post (of one form or another).
1 kid in high school.
1 kid in junior high school.
2 kids in elementary school.

Life is good.

Texas Trip #5 – The Big Party!!

Having successfully arrived in Texas (LINK), and having spent some time with my Sister in Law (my wife's sister), my Brother in Law (my sister's husband), and his parents (LINK), and having made the trip to Austin and surprising AtHomeDaddy (LINK) - the time had come for THE BIG PARTY!!  

(All photos in this post have been “captioned”.  Hover mouse over photo to see caption.)

The day before the party had been a long one indeed...  We did not get to bed until after 2am the night before.  We had gotten up early for a morning walk, and to start off towards Austin from Dallas (a three hour tour drive).  We met up with (and surprised) AtHomeDaddy and the rest of the AtHomeFamily.  We spent time at Zilker Park, got the whirlwind tour of Austin before heading back to the AtHomeCompound.  After visiting with AtHomeFamily, the Mother of Five and I headed back to the hotel to unpack, clean up, and then reconnect with AtHomeFamily for dinner, and then desert.  As we parted ways for the evening.  We were invited to stop back out at their house to hang out while they prepared for the party.  We went back to the hotel and crashed hard.

Not my photo - My photo was lost when I drove off with my camera phone on the roof of my car...  But, this is exactly what my Texas Waffle looked like!The next morning we (unintentionally) slept in (we did not set an alarm).  After getting up, we went for a brisk walk to a group of four GeoCaches (LINK) near our hotel, returned to the hotel, cleaned up, and headed down for the hotel breakfast.

MAN - these Texans sure love their state!  There are images of Texas, and the "Lone Star" all over the place.  They even make their waffles in the shape of Texas!  The only "State" shaped waffle iron I could find was the Texas Waffle Iron.  (I've checked.. I wanted a Minnesota Waffle Iron).  

I do have to admit, the "Texas Waffle" was quite delicious!  Was it because of the recipe, or was it because it was shaped into the state of Texas???  You be the judge.     

After breakfast and before we headed to the AtHomeCompound, we had a couple of errands we needed to run.  Not knowing how late the party would go - we also opted to attend Church services on Saturday evening (not wanting to go to Church on Sunday morning).  Since Mass ended just as the party started - the timing was pretty good!. 

While we were out running our errands we stopped for a quick bite while at the Lakeline Mall.  We wanted something light because TheBossLady was putting out a big spread at the party, and I did not want to spoil our appetites.  I had the Tuscany Turkey Panini while the Mother of Five had the Panini Club from Frullati Cafe.  I had never tried a Frullati before, and I was pleasantly surprised!

Somewhere during the day, we looked at the clock and realized we were running tight on time.  We called AtHomeDaddy and told him that we would not be able to swing by the house before the party.  We were feeling a worried about appearing like we did not want to come over – after all, we were invited to come and "hang" with the party prep team at AtHomeDaddy's place...  But, by the time we finished our errands, (keeping mass time in mind) there was only one hour before mass started.  It was not quite enough time to "hang" back at the AtHomeCompound, yet a little to early to go sit in church too. 

So, what did we do with our limited time?  Well, there were two VERY SPECIFIC GeoCaches that I wanted to nab before we left Austin - and since they were not far from the church we found to attend - we headed out and made these "special" finds!  (LINK)

After making these finds, we headed out to find the Church.  We arrived with a little spare time, so we quickly gassed up the Nitro, and headed back into to Church.  The Church (St. Louis, King of France Catholic Church) was very nice.  I was struck by a couple of observations.  The church had been modernized, but despite the modernization, there were still three ropes that came through the ceiling that were attached to bells in the tower.  The alter servers actually pulled the ropes to ring the bells.  (The bells at our (very old) church are motorized.) 

I actually liked watching the servers ring the bells.   I also noticed that there were SIX alter servers (as opposed to our two or three), and three officiating clergy on the alter (not sure how many of them were Priests vs Associate Pastors or Deacons).  Other than these cosmetic differences, the Mass felt very familiar (one of the things I like about the Catholic Church, but that's a post for another time). 

Once mass was finished, we headed over to the AtHomeCompound to join the festivities!

Irene - a 1961 Chevrolet Biscayne



The party was just warming up when we arrived.  The first thing I noticed as we arrived was "Irene".  Irene is a 1961 Chevrolet Biscayne owned by AtHomeDaddy's friend Kyle.  Irene was parked in the driveway.  Truly a beautiful car with a classic look and in AMAZING shape! 





Chillin' & Grillin'




After admiring Irene, we walked into the back yard through gap in the fence (that cost AtHomeDaddy two hammers to remove) where we were immediately welcomed by AtHomeDaddy (who was chillin’ at the grill), and soon after joined by TheBossLady. 







We checked in with the hosts, and visited for a few minutes before I spotted another attendee that I had to say hello to. 

It was time to meet MARGE (a 1968 Chevrolet long wheel base step-side 1/2 ton pickup truck that AtHomeDaddy rescued from a family farm, and is in the process of restoring).  Marge was parked in the back corner of the yard, and was busy keeping the beverages cool for the partygoers. 

  Marge!! (1)       Marge!! (2)

FOF & MOFMarge and AtHomeDaddy introduced me to what may likely become a "favorite" of mine.  Shiner Bock

I'm usually a fan of the "lighter" beers (Michelob Golden Light being my regular beer of choice – I am, after all, watching my “girlish” figure).  But on this day, the Shiner Bocks went down pretty easy.  Maybe it was the fun festivities, or the great company I was in, or the Texas heat (or a combination of all three) - but what ever the reason, I truly did like (and plan on stocking up on some) Shiner Bock!  I may have found my "specialty beer"!  (Assuming I can find this Texas native up here in Minnesota!)    

In addition to the cold beverages being dispensed by Marge, there was plenty of good food (BBQ’ed hot dogs and sausage, tortilla wraps, Cupcakes!!beans, chips, snacks, beverages, etc, etc, etc) – and, if that was not enough – TheBossLady and ThePrincess started walking around with BOXES of home made cupcakes, frosted with TheBossLady’s special home-made buttercream frosting!  (I thought I heard at one point that they had made over two hundred cupcakes!!)  Oh, and for the record… They were DELICIOUS!!

One thing that was omni-present throughout the party…  Chickens. 

Yes, live chickens!!  You see, the AtHomeFam are urban chicken ranchers.  There is a long story behind how they have ended up with the birds they do, and if your interested, you will have to pop over to AtHomeDaddy’s blog and check out the ninety or so posts about their urban chicken paradise by following the HERE CHICKY CHICKY link.)

Chickens!More Chickens!!


I hear y’all asking…

What’s better than watching a flock of urban chickens running around a back yard?? 

Well, I’ll tell you. 

Watching a bunch of kids chasing the chickens that are running around the back yard!  Yup, those chickens provided the children attending the party a lot of entertainment – which then provided the adults a lot of entertainment by watching the children run around trying to catch the chickens that were running around!

Big smile after finally catching a chicken!Finally, Caught one!At one point, a cute little gal who had been chasing the chickens around had actually CAUGHT ONE!!  She was wandering around the party holding that chicken, with a grin of pride stretched from one ear to the other!!  It was adorable!!  (The chicken was rather patient and understanding too!)

From there,  the party became a whirlwind blur of activity! 

(Was that blur due to the Shiner Bock??)

We were introduced to so many of the AtHomeFamily's family and friends. 

Everyone we met was so hospitable, kind, and nice!!  So many of them knew about our story, and asked us if we were the folks that came all the way from Minnesota!  It was almost as if they were eager to meet us!  There were so many questions about Minnesota, and a lot of (good natured) teasing about our winters (while we returned fire with teasing about the skin blistering Texas Summers). 

I failed to mention (in my previous post) having met "The Mother of the Bride" (TheBossLady's mother) the day before.  She was so pleasant to talk to, and seemed so genuinely delighted to have us there!  She was truly an example of what I think of when I hear the words "Texas Hospitality”!  It was a pleasure to have been able to meet, and spend some time with her!  I got to spend some time visiting with her during the party too!

Enjoy an intermission in this long post… 

Miscellaneous photos from the party…

Time for a cold one!     Overview

Mother-of-five     Starting to get the spread put out

Overview     Mingling

Visiting     Visiting

Ariel view #1     Ariel View #2

Ariel View #3     Father of five - vistiing

All the kids had a blast too!  In addition to chasing chickens around the yard, there was Impromptu backyard football games, inflatable bouncers (one somehow got unplugged and started deflating until AtHomeDaddy came to the rescue) and or course, the backyard playground!

Pick up Football game (Removed fence panel in background)     Playscape

Inflatable Castle     Deflated Castle - AtHomeDaddy to the rescue!

Intermission over.  Hope you enjoyed!  We now return you to the post in progress!

One of the families brought a cooler full of water balloons.  Not just a cooler full of water balloons, but a cooler full of water balloons filled with ICE WATER! 

They were SUPPOSED to be shared among the kids attending the party (and, in a way they did get shared with the kids attending the party – but not towards each other).  Instead, the kids all swarmed AtHomeDaddy and gave him a showering of ice water filled balloons.  


And, for those of you who can not see the videos, here are some photographs of what went down!!
(sorry they are so blurry, they were live action shots, and it was starting to get darker outside) 

Water Balloon Attack 1      Water Balloon Attack 2

Water Balloon Attack 3      Water Balloon Attack 4

Water Balloon Attack 5      Water Balloon Attack 6

Water Balloon Attack - Aftermath 1  Water Balloon Attack - Aftermath 2  Water Balloon Attack - Aftermath 3

Soaked to the skin    

By this time, it was was starting to get late, and dark out.  Many of the partygoers with kids (that we were NOT one of - for a change) started heading home.  The “activity level” started winding down, but a core group of AtHomeDaddy’s friends were still hanging around.

Darkness falls as the party winds down     Accent lighting

This was about the time that AtHomeDaddy’s friend Peter brought a new guest to the party. 


AtHomeDaddy and Maria!Maria is an 18 x 36 inch black velveteen painting of a nude woman. 
(Censored to keep my “G” rating here on FOF)

Originally, AtHomeDaddy found Maria (in all her “glorious velvety nudeness”) while out one night “Junkin”.  Ever since, Maria has been passed back in forth between a group of neighborhood friends (often in quite humorous ways), frequently surprising her new host. 

(Many of Maria’s previous escapades can be found HERE.)

It seems that Peter had wanted to climb up on AtHomeDaddy’s roof, and hang Maria (in all her “glorious velvety nudeness”) on a portion of the chimney (Do Texans really need or use fireplaces??) that faced the back yard – so that all the partygoers could enjoy Maria (in all her glorious velvety nudeness)!!  At the last minute Peter decided against his plan for Maria’s newest move, due to the presence of so many children.  Instead, he waited until almost all the children had left, and propped Maria up against the house – where AtHomeDaddy met her face to face! 

There were many stories of Maria shared this evening!     

After the excitement of Maria’s arrival wore down, those of us that were still around gathered up some chairs, and sat down and started visiting.  At one point AtHomeDaddy brought out a guitar, and his friend Kyle grabbed it, and started playing (and playing well) – he added some nice background music to the party for a while

Kyle on the Gee-Tar!

As I sat and listened to the conversation going on around me between all these friends, it became apparent that they were all college buddies. 

Later on (as we were leaving) AtHomeDaddy mentioned to me that he hoped I was not board by all the “college reminiscing” that was going on…

To the contrary, I found it quite fascinating! 

As I started listening to AtHomeDaddy (and his buddy’s) college stories, I started thinking about some of my own college stories.  I was able to draw comparisons between AtHomeDaddy’s group of friends, and who (in my group of friends) matched personalities within this group of friends. 

As an example, AtHomeDaddy’s friend Kyle reminds me a lot of my Best Bud Ed!  Very outgoing with a strong personality and seemingly not afraid to try anything!

The stories continued on until sometime around midnight…  Folks were starting to get tired (myself and MOF included), and the party started breaking down…  We were the last ones to leave, and before we headed out we took a couple of last photos before we thanked AtHomeFamily for being such gracious hosts, for putting on such a great party, and for inviting us! 

Attending this party was REALLY a step out of my shell, and I am really glad I did it!! 

This party will be one that I will remember for a LONG time to come!

I would like to send a big thank you to TheBossLady!  I’m not sure how, but I do believe we managed to surprise him!!  This amazing party would not part of my memories had it not been for you!  AtHomeDaddy is one lucky fella to have such a wonderful wife who obviously cares so much about him! 

A huge thank you to all the family and friends of the AtHomeFamily!  It was a pleasure meeting all of you, and you all made us feel so welcome at the party!  We had a wonderful time meeting each of you!!

And, of course, a special thanks to AtHomeDaddy – Although it has not been quite “traditional”, I have had a great time getting to know you over the past three years!  You have made me smile and laugh when I needed it, and serious when the situation calls for that too.  You’ve been a sounding board, and and advise giver, and an ear to bend.  I am both privileged and honored to be able to call you “friend”. 

I thank you more than you know!

A couple of bloggers...

We said our goodbyes and thank you’s, and with “The Big Party” now in the history books, it was time for us to head back to the hotel… 

We had to be up early for a morning of travel, with a specifically requested stop along the way. 

We were quickly approaching our last day….   Deep in the heart of Texas!

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